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Liberian Women will not have their Hopes for Peace and Democracy Dashed

2011 November 9
by sfcg
Liberian elections women
Liberian women proudly should their voter registration cards and fingers marked for voting. (Photos: Lindsay Forslund)

By Lindsay Forslund

The mood was somber and even a little eerie yesterday morning in Monrovia, despite the clear skies and sunshine that greeted Liberians, and encouraged them to go out to the polling stations.   A stark contrast from the mood on October 11, 2011, despite the stormy skies and rain, voters’ spirits in the city were hopeful and energetic as many queues formed outside of the polling stations hours before opening.

The electoral road to democracy has not been a smooth one this past month for Liberia.  The opposition party, Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) has continuously been pushing their claims and making demands concerning the credibility and fairness of the electoral process. Not satisfied with the concessions made by National Elections Commission (NEC) the CDC chose to boycott the runoff elections.

Despite efforts made by ECC and several other civil society organizations as well as international bodies to get stakeholders to reach an agreement, the CDC refused to participate in the electoral process because they felt no satisfactory settlement was reached in time.

Further exasperating the already tense situation, on the eve of the runoff election a gathering at CDC headquarters took a violent direction.  Police used teargas and fired live rounds into the crowed leaving several people injured and three dead.  The impact of this tragic turn of events could be felt at the polling stations yesterday. As we visited the polls throughout Monrovia the same scene was repeated all over the city; polling station workers, ECC observers and Unity Party observers waiting quietly as voters slowly trickled in throughout the course of the day.

No need to wait in line: a near empty polling station in Monrovia.

In the ECC’s press release yesterday they noted that overall the process was very peaceful and quiet but raised concerns over the sudden transfer of several polling centers that may have disrupted some voters’ opportunity to cast their ballot.  In addition, the closure of four radio stations and three television stations by the government for allegedly broadcasting hate messages is alarming and the ECC has, “called on the government of Liberia to exercise restraint as the closure of media institutions at this crucial moment could be perceived as repressive and anti-democratic.”

Liberia ballot
Ballot card for the run-off

Currently, it is estimated that approximately 25% of registered voters turned out to vote yesterday a disappointing number when compared to the 72% in the first round. However, despite the low number of voters and the concerns raised by the ECC, I witnessed something extremely significant and positive yesterday – Liberian women.  Out of all the voters we did encounter throughout the day, overwhelmingly 90 plus percent of them were women. When I stopped to ask one woman how she felt after casting her ballot she responded, “ I feel proud, because I have made a decision not just for me but also for my children.”  Seeing Liberian women of all ages proudly displaying their voter registration cards and inked fingers gave me a sense of confidence, that even with the roadblocks Liberia has encountered during this electoral cycle they are still moving forward. Ensuring that they will not veer from this positive direction, I see the women of Liberia at the forefront, it is the strength and action of these commitment, brave and driven women that will push messages of hope and peace in this still fragile democracy.

Liberian woman voter


 Lindsay Forslund is an international intern working with SFCG in Liberia. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Gender and Peace Building at the United Nations Mandated University for Peace in San José, Costa Rica. She has written previously about the elections in Liberia on the Common ground Blog:

Liberia’s Health Appetite for Political Debate

Dedication to Democracy

Liberians Not Yet Done with Democratic Duty

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